Meeting with leaders of the future

“So who here plans to start a life on Long Island after college graduation?”

That’s the question we asked an auditorium full of high school valedictorians from across Long Island last week. A handful raised their hands yes, and another few for no. But the majority plead the third option — “not sure.”

That answer, and the follow-up conversations we had with several students after, speak to the state of our region in ways raw data can’t. Forty-one percent of young adults live with relatives and 71 percent want to leave in the next five years, according to the 2018 Long Island Index. Those numbers are stark, but it’s powerful to hear directly from our brightest students.

“If I plan on being an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist, there are not many job opportunities for me on the island,” said McGann-Mercy valedictorian Olivia Valle.

Valle, like Walt Whitman valedictorian Joseph VanGostein, plan to come back after starting their careers in more industry-hospitable places.

“As of right now, I hope to return to Long Island after working for 5-10 years in Manhattan,” VanGostein said, who is planning to study global business in college.

Long Island’s population of 25-34 year olds has declined by 6 percent since 2000, according to the 2018 Long Island Index Report — likely “outmigration from lack of affordable rental housing, downtown amenities, job opportunities and transportation.”

Despite this, Lindenhurst valedictorian and biological engineering major Sahil Kapoor sees a future here.

“I do plan to live on Long Island because it gives the best of all places: beaches, a few hours from mountains, NYC — and of course the food.”

What we’ve been reading

We’re doing a lot of reading and research to make nextLI a successful and healthy community.

Here’s some of what we’ve been thinking about since our last update:

  • The Economist launched a new platform for online debate, which adapts the Oxford style of debating for a digital world. The conversations stand out for being substantive and respectful — something we want to learn from as we launch nextLI.
  • The Pew Research Center published a calculator to help show how demographic shifts are reshaping America. In particular, the interactive tool shows how Nassau and Suffolk counties stack up against other suburbs and the nation as a whole.
  • We’ve been diving into the the United Way ALICE Project, which tries to quantify how many households struggle to afford basic necessities across in communities around the nation. United Way finds that 25 percent of families in Nassau and 29 percent in Suffolk fall below a bare-minimum economic survival threshold based on local cost of living. That’s lower the state rate of 33 percent, but far higher than the number of families officially living below the poverty line. We’ll go deeper into those numbers when the full New York State report is published.
  • In case you missed it, you might have fun with The Point’s Long Island-themed crossword puzzle. (The Point is a daily newsletter about politics and policy in New York).